Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Maybe we don't build upon the past?

SatanicPuppy writes this. Here is my closer look at that argument...

So you do not believe that software is evolutionary where the present is always taking the past and building upon it to create a future where some code grows and some code dies and in the end 'better' is emergent?

You are really going to argue that each person or company exists in a bubble and just writes whatever code is necessary to make / improve their project in such a way that beats out all the competition?

That's great! Must mean we only have a few more years until the software we need will all be written and we will be done. And developers can spend the rest of their days doing seminars showing new people how to use the software.

Yeah, come to think of it, this whole progress just building upon progress building upon progress just sounds like an endless cycle that just creates more and more work for people, like as if for every answer there were just three new questions. Yuck, who wants to live in a world like that?

I think the best part about your vision of the world is that once we have this whole 'science' thing done, technology will be the best, nobody will ever become obsolete because their knowledge will always be up to date because they will only learn the right thing the first time, and schools will save TONS of money because they will never need to replace their science textbooks ever again.

And since we know it is perfect, we can then convert all the religious people because it is unchanging, so they can count on it, and everyone will start calling it The New Holy Bible, and it will be easy to see who is defective and unfit for society: Those who disagree with it are heretics, because only people that understand that we now live in a perfect world are good.

I think we should just give the money all to Microsoft since they are the closest to creating the one true operating system. They must be, just look at their market share. I am sure their team of geniuses are pretty close to making the one perfect operating system for everybody that will never need to be upgraded again and finally everyone can be happy!

And then not long after that, think of how easy Google will have it when it can finally finish indexing the Internet. I am sure it just pisses them off all the time that while they are busy trying to organize the Internet people just keep adding stuff to it over and over and over again. How does that help anybody?

I'm going to write Lawrence Lessig right now expressing my frustration for him lying to me all these years, nonsense about "ideas building on ideas of others". What non-sense! Stuff like that is for Pirates, Communists, and kids who cheat in school. Thanks for setting things straight.

ZooLooK argues "Open Source is the ultimate in re-usable investments in the area of computer technology". The only way I would disagree is that people with the source need to be enabled to share contributions to the code, share improvements with each other in some way.

But dj245 disagrees arguing that anything the government invests in FlOSS wise will just be replaced; it doesn't represent a permanent infrastructure improvement. I couldn't disagree more. Here was my full response:

So what you are saying is that progress always builds on the past? Wow, think you have just made a great argument for FlOSS, because the more we can keep track of past accomplishments, the less likely we will find ourselves reinventing the wheel.

Honestly though, I am not sure if you are being serious or not. There are two things going on with the Kernel to my understanding in this context: Either new things come about, and support is added (old code doesn't change) or people examine the way something is done and find a way to improve upon it (old code still exists in that the improved version is a derivative. how do you make something better without something to start with?).

Another thing I think of is the collective work of the ancient Greeks. Are you going to say that all their math, science, architecture, technology and such were a waste of time because we have stuff that is so much better now? Are you joking? There are many ways that the money could be wasted, but most of that is a matter of poor oversight. I would expect it to go something like Google Summer of Code where money will be given to specific projects that have specific goals and a track record of success... versus these banks that seem to have a history of scams and failures. FlOSS is a real way to invest in the community rather than giving someone money to find a way to get money from others. Government grants for science, medicine and such are released as public domain... so unless these are 'works for hire' (which they usually are) they can legally be GPL despite all the "restrictions".

"Collecting information is only the first step towards knowledge, but sharing information is walking the path to civilization."

Thinking about it further, while roads, dams, rails, and other such infrastructure are vital, and which I have argued should be about the only legitimate purpose of a federal government, they are only snap shots; things like a dam, road, or rail represent where technology was at some point. Roads don't improve because they need to be standardized. same with rail or many other things. We are slowly phasing out copper telephone lines for fiber optic, but what a huge gap in technology. Also, all those things need to be maintained. We spend money on keeping things old because it is even more expensive to make it new. A dam for example if there is some kind of revolutionary advancement, replacing it or fitting it with the new technology is often prohibitively expensive.

Ok, so data storage isn't free either, but updating the information on a hard drive is nothing like having to tear down a power plant and put up a new one. Also, as much as we want to respect people for their contributions and let them make money with patents and such, real progress for civilization doesn't come until those patents or copyrights expire. Creating work toda and putting it into the public domain or share alike licenses like GPL, society advances TODAY, not 70 years after you die.

Room for infinite progress does not mean hopelessness. It is also not quixotic. Working together as humanity to advance ourselves agressivly and to the limits of societies collective mind is the greatest thing our species can ever hope for. As mentioned above, I think the Greeks saw this and understood it, judging from their philosophy, but looking at the way the internet has revolutionized the world, we can really see that nothing can hope to advance our civilization than to push sharing of any and all knowledge to every brain on this planet.

There were some interesting predictions made by the writters of Star Trek. Something Jonathan Archer, captain in Star Trek Enterprise was explaining to an alien at one point, humans were at war with each other, greedy and materialistic to the point of destroying themselves until one day they discovered they were not alone in the universe, and society took on a whole new purpose of working together for humanity.

I know the economy goes in cycles, but I do see people struggling in ways that I can not understand how are necessary for society to function. Unless we believe the Ricardian theory that if wages go up, that just means poor people will have more babies till they are poor again, we need to do something different. From what I have seen of numbers, one of the mai reasons people people have children when they can not afford to take catre of them is due to a sese of hopelessness, a hopelessness that leads them to believe that no legacy can be forged in their own lifetime, but maybe a child will have a better opportunity.

But we know that doesn't work either.

The good information is coveted and restricted though the filter of our monetary system, violating rules of supply and demand due to artificial supply restrictions. Meanwhile the only free access to information is crap that gets throwen in our face whether we like it or not. Advertisments EVERYWHERE like grafetti from television, billboards, windows, and buss stops to spam.

We surround ourselves with disgusting, worthless information, filling and overwhelming our brains with garbage. Some try to fight this brain littering, but for each thing that gets pushed away only creates a void for new crap to take its place.

It is because advertisers know we are hungry for information.

Information is like bacteria. There is good bacteria and bad bacteria. We have evolved from simple viruses to very complex machines. We depend on bacteria for many functions of our systems, even though many bad ones can compromise them just the same. But a system filled with good bacteria leaves to room for bad bacteria to take over. Encourage the free flow of good, useful information, and people will be drawn to it just because it is better. Google, wikipedia, firefox, have dominated because their core have been about encouraging people to express themselves freely. Youtube, MySpace, Facebook, and even Twitter are taking over as popular sources for primary information. Unlike television and movies, these services provide bidirection self-influencing communication.

I figure an argument of it is that from each side, the commercial side, and the commons have a symbiotic relationship, where the commons is the primary source, where the most elite groups are able to produce commercial products, but I am not so sure. I don't believe that the only balance for encouraging development of new ideas is artificial supply restrictions to meet some kind of fake supply and demand. Supply and demand works when different people can bring similar things to market. people compete for good fast cheap, and the best people will find the best value in driving the price up when they can best use those commodities and a balance is found.

But does it work to commoditize information in the same way? Sure, but to a limit.

This wasn't all building up to this conclusion, but a solution neeeds to be mentioned. If companies. people, or whatever can be allowed to artificially manipulate the market through 'limited' (not so limited) monopolies, they should have to pay for it proportionally to its value. Say, for each year after 7 years there should be a tax that goes to schools to create new competitive ideas, based on a percentage of gross profits produced over the lifetime of the work while in copyright, even if VERY small, but something to encouage people NOT using a copyright to transfer it into the public domain to become profitable again for the whole of humanity.

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